Michael’s Top 20 Albums of 2012

Long Distance Runners//Photo: David Howells
Long Distance Runners//Photo: David Howells

by Michael Thomas

Here are my top 20 (because screw the rules) favourite Canadian albums of this year, in alphabetical order:

Boxer the Horse- French Residency

The boys from out east have released yet another stellar album, full of the band’s characteristic nonchalance as they sing about being in a car where Karen Silkwood was killed or just a quick song about Steve McQueen. Rock with very little frills equals pure awesomeness.

Bravestation- Giants & Dreamers

Bravestation went through a bit of a stylistic change between their last EP and this recording, and it’s a beautiful metamorphosis. The band now has a genre almost entirely to themselves, full of gorgeous tribal and ritualistic beats that will keep you spellbound.

Brenna Lowrie- The Body Electric

All the way from Lethbridge is Brenna Lowrie, who brings her very unique arrangements and tone of voice into a very eclectic record. Try not to have your heart melted by “Old Montreal.”

Cold Specks- I Predict a Graceful Expulsion

Al Spx needs no introduction- she has simply the most stunning voice heard in Canadian music in quite some time, without question. Her soul shines on every single one of the tracks of her debut album. Guaranteed chills.

Dance Movie- Interlopers

I believe the description given to Dance Movie’s music involved the words “sad bastards.” Listen to it if you’re sad, but listen to it if you’re feeling joyous. There is so much raw emotion in this album that I still can’t believe it was all allowed to be in one place.

Erin Costelo- We Can Get Over

Costelo’s got soul, that’s for sure. Her wonderfully unique vocals and experience with orchestras makes her sound like a lost soul from the 60s, and it’s good. Real good.

Expwy- Little Hand Fighter

I’ve talked plenty about Matt LeGroulx’s work ethic so I’ll cut straight to the chase. No one in Canada did what LeGroulx did this year- he effortlessly combined bossa nova with lo-fi indie rock. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Jay Sparrow- White

Kudos to Jay Sparrow for not simply releasing another album of the roots-rock he’s known for (not that that would have been a bad thing). Instead, Sparrow opted to go fully electronic and the record shines because of it.

Long Distance Runners- Tracks

This Newfoundland group put out a recording that is completely filled with punchy melodies, witty refrains and a sense of complete mastery over their craft. Long Distance Runners know where they come from- ’cause they were born to rock and roll.

Mike O’Neill- Wild Lines

This was an album that had a few false starts, but it’s great that it finally came out to the world. The lead singer of the Inbreds released a stunning pop album that just shows why everyone already knows who Mike O’Neill is.

Mo Kenney- Mo Kenney

That this is only the first album from Mo Kenney is incredible. She sounds like she’s had decades of experience. It also helps that Kenney had help from Joel Plaskett who obviously knows talent when he sees it. Kenney has a fiery soul that burns throughout all of her songs, even the soft ones.

North Lakes- Grand Prix

Grab your ticket to the best race in town. I don’t know how North Lakes got so phenomenally good, but Grand Prix is possibly the most succinct record I’ve heard in ages. There’s zero excess, just pure adrenaline. Will leave you hungry for more rock goodness.

Paper Beat Scissors- Paper Beat Scissors

I still remember my jaw dropping upon hearing this album for the first time- Tim Crabtree has created something sparse but beautiful. This album will make you feel like a better person having aurally witnessed it.

Said the Whale- Little Mountain

Said the Whale took a few more risks on this album and it most certainly paid off. The album feels absolutely jam-packed, and it features the usual great harmonies and innate sound that can only be Said the Whale. Also appreciated is their heavier material like “Heavy Ceiling” or “Hurricane Ada.”

Snowblink- Inner Classics

Despite Daniela Gesundheit finding my description of this album funny, I still firmly stand by my belief that Inner Classics is almost like a religious experience. Gesundheit’s unique vocals and Dan Goldman’s masterful instrumentation make this album unforgettable.

WAND- Mt. St. Helens

Grande Prairie, Alta. has produced a lot of weird and wonderful artists, one of whom is Derek Janzen. The album brilliantly draws a comparison between a volcano and the human condition over some long but intense jams.

Wilderness of Manitoba- Island of Echoes

This Toronto band took everything that made their last album sparkle and added in more to make this one of the prettiest albums you’ll hear this year. Can Mother Nature officially have a soundtrack? If so, Island of Echoes has her covered.

Wintermitts- Oceans

Wintermitts weave in and out of English and French with ease, and there’s very few bands that can do this without it being a gimmick. The command of both languages can make songs like “Sharks” and “Basquiat” so different yet so fundamentally the same.

Wool on Wolves- Measures of Progress

This was the latest addition to my list and it made it for a reason. The five members of this group have a point of letting every band member contribute to the way each song is written and structured, and this has fortunately produced a record that will never bore.

Yukon Blonde- Tiger Talk

Come on, guys, I’m running out of things to say about you! Yukon Blonde could be another lost 60s act and continually wow with their beautiful harmonies and explosive energy (see “My Girl” as an example).


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